The Indian star in the javelin galaxy, Neeraj Chopra to rely upon consistency on the world stage.
The top 25 javelin throwers of all time feature as many as five Germans on the list and the way they have been performing of late, it is only expected to multiply.
The most recent performance starred Andreas Hofmann, who turned heads by winning the bronze medal at the 2018 European Championships with a throw of 87.60 metres.
The best from the nation, however, has been Johannes Vetter with his stupendous throw of 94.44 metres at the 2018 European Throwing Cup. He is second on the list of the all-time best, though, with Czech Republic’s Jan Železný’s unparalleled 98.48m topping them all.
Apart from Germany, nations like Finland, Estonia, Russia, and others have had footprints amongst the best performances in the sport. But why is it that the Europeans enjoy such dominance in his sport? What makes this special? India’s top javelin thrower, Neeraj Chopra seems to have an answer.
“It’s mostly the European countries. Earlier there were Finland and the Czech Republic as well, who was doing really well. Now it’s the Germans,” says Chopra trying to trace back to the roots in his conversation with the Olympic Channel.
“This is mainly because of the perception there. Like in Germany, the javelin throwers are encouraged very much and every kind of facility is provided – be it coaching or the infrastructure. The establishment has been good since the beginning and they are reaping the fruits now,” explains the man who had brought entire India on their feet with a junior world record throw of 88.06 metres at the 2016 IAAF World U20 Championship.
However, Chopra is quick to point out that India is also taking huge strides towards development in the sport and has been doing really well of late. “Things have improved in India as well. If you see this year, Shivpal Singh (who won the gold medal in the Military Games in Wuhan) has done very well alongside Vipin Kasana. They have consistently been hitting 80m plus and that is a good sign,” he says.
Physical strength, superior physique, and tremendous speed have been some of the traits of the German athletes, believes Chopra who had previously trained in the country under coach Werner Daniels.
“Germans are born stronger and faster. But, every thrower has their own USP – some are speedy, some are strong, and some have very good technique. So yes, Germans are very good thrower. They have thrown 93 and 94m, which are 4-5m more than us. I try to be more consistent though, with my throws, which helps me a lot,” he states.
Going under the knife back in April this year owing to an elbow injury, Chopra is in the final phase of his rehabilitation. Missing out on many important competitions, most notably the Diamond League and the World Athletic Championship, the Indian ace is currently in South Africa’s NorthWest University preparing for the upcoming season.
After eight long months of training in isolation, the Naib Subedar in the Indian Army is now raring to go and took the Olympic Channel through his daily training regime.
“I train twice a day now. Sometimes, when the training is heavier later in the day, I try to get up early at around 6:30 am to have a light workout and get a better recovery time for the second session. In case of a heavier morning session, I go out at 9 am after breakfast.
“The coach (Klaus Bartonietz) decides everything - when I have to do core, sprint, jump, weight workout, and throws. Everything is divided into morning and evening. He mixes up things from day to day to keep things challenging as well. I train everything that an athlete does, keeping the main focus on the throw, obviously.” says Chopra.
Despite staying away from the field for almost a year, Chopra continues to be one of India’s medal hopefuls at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, the 22-year-old has not a single shred of pressure on him.
“I have never taken pressure. All these (hopes and expectations) encourages me more than anything. People had expectations ahead of the CWG and Asian Games as well, so I can’t really take much pressure from these all. But, it feels good that the nation has such high hopes from me.
“I have been like this since childhood. I have always tried to stay free of pressure, have fun, listen to music, and other such stuff. We train to do well on the big stage. So, if you are sincere there [in training], you won’t need much pressure during the performance. Pressure comes when you are performing in your own country in front of your own crowd. But, I’ve been in those situations and I handled it well,” he sings off.
While the nation will wait with bated breath when Chopra returns to the field in the New Year, the youngster will know that making the cut for Tokyo 2020 will be a priority before he can think beyond.